Members of the Ohio Student Association protest the passage of House Bill 203, which would implement Stand Your Ground laws in their state. (Joel Solow/Ohio Student Association)
“I am concerned by policies that seek to further divide us by encouraging us to fear one another based on elements of diversity that should otherwise be the tools that bring us closer together out of sheer curiosity and respect,” said Aricka Janay, a young woman from Ohio at a press conference at the state house on October 2. “I am concerned by policies that threaten the safety of our brown and black brothers and sisters throughout Ohio.”
The battle against Stand Your Ground has migrated from the south to the midwest and young people are in the trenches. The Ohio Student Association (OSA)—a growing organization of low-income youth building local political power—has launched a new campaign against the impending implementation of Stand Your Ground in their state in the form of House bill 203. Close allies with Florida-based Dream Defenders, OSA has taken up the torch in combatting racial profiling, supporting public higher education and driving civic engagement for youth and students from marginalized communities.
In the wake of the George Zimmerman’s acquittal, local legislatures began debating whether the “self-defense” law should be adopted in Ohio. However, OSA which has become a force for student and youth power in Ohio will not give up without a fight citing the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin as proof that the legislation serves to further strip people of color of their most important right, a right to life. Importantly, shoot first laws like Stand Your Ground highlight public safety as their main concern yet seem to only apply in the case of non-black perpetrators like Zimmerman while when black people—particularly black women like Marissa Alexander or Cece McDonald—stand their ground, the laws seem not to apply.
OSA is one of many statewide student associations that have sprung up since 2011 with the transition of the Occupy movement into multi-issue campaigns focused on building community power organizations. OSA were also the hosts of the first National Student Power Convergence in Columbus in the summer of 2012, and are a powerful model for other student power unions that are being established across the United States from the Virginia Student Power Network to the North Carolina Student Power Union.